Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Marcell Dareus celebrates after sacking Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith during the second half of an NFL football game, Sunday, Nov. 9, 2014, in Orchard Park, N.Y. (AP Photo/Bill Wippert)
Bill Wippert
November 11, 2014

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Marcell Dareus has spent the past three months sticking to his vow to focus solely on football. And the Buffalo Bills defensive tackle has no intention of deviating off course.

''Interview over,'' Dareus said Tuesday, when the topic of his spring off-field troubles was broached.

Following an offseason in which he got off on the wrong foot by being arrested twice in May, Dareus' commitment to doing all the right things is showing signs of paying off.

The 2011 first-round draft pick is having a breakout campaign, anchoring an attacking defense that leads the NFL with 34 sacks as Buffalo (5-4) prepares to play at Miami (5-4) on Thursday night.

Dareus has a single-season best 10 sacks already, which ranks first among NFL defensive linemen and fourth overall. And he's coming off yet another dominating performance in which he had a career-best-matching three sacks and was in on seven tackles in a 17-13 loss to Kansas City on Sunday.

It was his second three-sack game in six weeks, and reflects a consistency in Dareus' performance that had been lacking during his first three seasons.

''One of the goals that I wanted to reach when I came out of college was to be the best player and be the best person I can possibly be,'' Dareus said. ''But words only mean so much until you put your actions behind you.''

That's a big step forward from the questions Dareus' actions raised about his character dating to the end of last season when he was benched for parts of Buffalo's final two games after showing up late for team meetings.

Then came Dareus' legal problems.

On May 5, he was arrested on drug possession charges during a traffic stop in his native Alabama. Four weeks later, Dareus was charged with reckless driving and ticketed for numerous traffic violations after crashing his 2012 Jaguar into a tree during an alleged car race not far from Ralph Wilson Stadium.

He has since agreed to enter an NFL substance abuse program in a bid to have the two felony charges dismissed. The traffic charge has not yet been resolved, with Dareus scheduled to appear in court next week.

Dareus won't even acknowledge what happened.

''I don't really know what you guys mean,'' he said. ''I play ball, and I handle my business. So anything outside of that is irrelevant.''

Others have taken notice of Dareus' newfound focus.

''I think with `Cell, it's really a culmination of things we've been waiting on,'' veteran defensive tackle Kyle Williams said. ''I think he's in a good place personally and obviously playing well. ... He's got a lot of God-given tools that not everybody has. And he's really figuring out the ins and outs of it.''

Coach Doug Marrone chalked it up to Dareus' commitment to structure and discipline.

''I think that everyone understands that there's been a lot of stuff that's happened with him off the field, and he's done a heck of a job,'' Marrone said. ''There is a sense of accountability and the lines that are drawn.''

Dareus' potential has never been a question since being selected by Buffalo with the No. 3 pick out of Alabama.

He had 5 1/2 sacks in each of his first two seasons in Buffalo before adding 7 1/2 last year to earn his first Pro Bowl selection.

At 6-foot-3 and 331 pounds, Dareus possesses the rare combination of having both size and speed.

''The thing that Marcell does is he's hard to stymie once he gets that big load going,'' defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz said. ''There's a lot of guys that are big. There's a lot of guys that are fast and quick. There's a lot of guys that have good eyes for the football. He's a combination of all of those.''

Dareus is even a bigger handful for opposing offensive lines to handle, because they also have to contend with a talent-laden defensive front that's rounded out by Kyle and Mario Williams and Jerry Hughes.

''It's all of us together. It's not a one-person job. It's never been just an `I' thing. It's always been us doing this together,'' Dareus said. ''And I'm just having fun with it.''

NOTES: Rookie S Jerome Couplin was released a week after being claimed off waivers. He did not play Sunday. ... DE Jarius Wynn (right knee) did not practice and is unlikely to play at Miami after being hurt Sunday.


AP NFL website: www.pro32.ap.org and http://twitter.com/AP-NFL

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